14.11.18

Gerrymandering, explained

How politicians draw the lines to benefit themselves.

What’s the best path to political victory? Is it running good candidates? Is it crafting a strong campaign message? Is it fundamental factors like the economy?

What can be better than all of these is: drawing the district lines.

Politicians often draw district boundaries to help themselves or their party. Packing as many of the other party’s voters as possible into just a few districts they’ll win overwhelmingly, while ensuring your own party’s voters get smaller but solid advantages in more districts overall, is the classic way to gerrymander. But it can be immensely frustrating to voters, and make them feel their voices aren’t being heard.

Both parties have historically gerrymandered, but Republicans had far more opportunities to do so after their 2010 wave election — they had sole control of redistricting in most swing states. And now, the next redistricting and the next opportunity for both parties to gerrymander is drawing ever closer.

Andrew Prokop

source: vox

House Republicans are trying to block a vote on the Yemen War

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is allowing a Republican effort to quash a vote on America’s involvement in Yemen.

It’s a surprise effort that has caught Democrats totally off guard.

On the first day of their post-election lame-duck session, House Republicans are planning to block a vote on whether the US should support Saudi Arabia in its war on Yemen, three congressional sources say.

On Tuesday night, the still GOP-led House Rules Committee will strip a measure seeking an authorization vote for US military support in Yemen of its special privilege.

“When Democrats assume the majority they will have the opportunity to hold hearings, markups, and take votes on this matter,” a Republican congressional aide told me. “Forcing this type of vote on members in the remainder of this Congress is purely political and simply unnecessary.”

The War Powers resolution, led by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and endorsed by top Democrats, was likely to come to the floor for a vote later this month due to that privilege. The War Powers Act of 1973 allows for a privilege that essentially lets it come to a vote, and congressional parliamentarians said Khanna resolution met the requirements for privilege, a source said.

But without it, it’s unlikely the House will vote on the measure until the next Congress — ending Democratic hopes of curbing America’s involvement in the war sooner rather than later.

Last week, the US stopped refueling Saudi warplanes that drop bombs in Yemen, but it still provides training and intelligence sharing.

The Huffington Post first reported on Republican efforts to delay a vote on the bill on Tuesday.

The US may continue its support for the Yemen war after all

Democrats, who will take control of the next House in January, planned to push legislation to curb America’s involvement in the Yemen war and US ties to Saudi Arabia.

Much of the criticism came after Saudi officials killed US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month. His death led to an international outcry, including among many US lawmakers. Khanna’s resolution was to be the first salvo to show the Trump administration that Congress was no longer behind the Yemen effort.

But with the imminent rule change, it looks like Democrats will need a new plan to vote on the matter before next year.

source: vox

13.11.18

Melania Trump publicly demanded an NSC aide’s firing — and reportedly got it

Mira Ricardel’s firing, explained.

A spokesperson for first lady Melania Trump took an extraordinary step on Tuesday afternoon: publicly calling for the job of National Security Council staffer Mira Ricardel.

“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that [Mira Ricardel] no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” said spokesperson Stephanie Grisham in a statement sent to a number of media outlets.

Ricardel is the top deputy for National Security Adviser John Bolton and worked for the Trump administration during the transition. When Bolton selected her in April, the Washington Post described her as “a well-known Republican hawk” and a “tough bureaucratic player with a strong personality.”

Reports about Ricardel’s “strong personality” — or her conflicts with many figures in the administration, particularly the first lady — are now spilling into the press.

The fight with Melania Trump’s office that led to her public call for Ricardel’s job began, according to the Wall Street Journal, with “seating on the plane and requests to use National Security Council resources” during Melania’s trip to Africa, and later escalated to accusations that Ricardel had planted negative stories in the press.

NBC called the first lady’s decision to go public with a demand for a top official’s job in public, rather than behind closed doors, “extraordinary, if not unprecedented.”

Who is Mira Ricardel?

Ricardel, whom the Post describes as a “Russia hawk,” served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe during the George W. Bush administration. Before joining the NSC, she had a leadership role on Trump’s transition team and later served in the Department of Commerce.

While the conflict with the first lady is getting the most attention, Ricardel has also clashed with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis since Trump’s transition, according to an October report from the Washington Post. The publication, quoting “half a dozen current and former officials familiar with the situation,” suggested that Ricardel was “undermining Mattis” during her time at the NSC.

Reporting Tuesday by the Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey suggested she’d made other enemies as well: According to current and former unnamed White House officials, they write, she “berated people in meetings, yelled at professional staff, argued with the first lady and spread rumors about Mattis.” Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly sided with Mattis and has long sought to oust Ricardel from her role with the NSC.

For a few hours after Melania Trump’s statement was released, it was unclear whether her husband would act on it. In fact, shortly after the statement went public, the president tweeted photos in which Ricardel, who has blond hair, can be seen standing near him at a White House event that took place earlier Tuesday.

However, later Tuesday afternoon, CNN reported that Trump has made the decision to fire Ricardel but is giving her some to clear out her desk before announcing it.

Melania Trump has had multiple feuds in the administration

The first lady’s beef with Ricardel isn’t the only recent report of her clashing with administration officials.

In a piece headlined “After clashes with first lady and others, Kelly may soon exit White House,” NBC reports that Kelly “has also gotten on the wrong side of Melania Trump over staffing issues and travel requests. Some of the disputes with the East Wing have escalated to the president, the seven people familiar with the clashes said.”

NBC’s reporting, which cites two unnamed current White House officials, said the dispute centered in part on promotions for some of Melania Trump’s aides.

From NBC’s Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker, Hallie Jackson, and Courtney Kube:

Having learned of the dispute, the president was furious and told Kelly to give the first lady, who has a smaller East Wing staff than her recent predecessors, what she wanted, these people said. “I don’t need this shit,” Trump told Kelly, according to one person familiar with the conversation.

Kelly has had a number of high-profile conflicts during his tenure as chief of staff, including with Anthony Scaramucci, Bolton, and Corey Lewandowski, among others.

Melania Trump, on the other hand, has sought to keep a low profile — until recently. In recent weeks, beyond the behind-the-scenes drama related to Kelly and Ricardel, she and her representatives have been picking fights in and with the press.

Melania Trump is not trying to make friends

Reports about Melania Trump’s multiple ongoing intra-administration feuds comes days after Grisham, her spokesperson, released a statement that could be read as a subtle rebuke to former first lady Michelle Obama.

During an interview with ABC that aired Sunday, Obama said that former first lady Laura Bush reached out to her during the transition period before her husband took office and said, “If you need any help, I’m a phone call away.” Obama claimed she made the same offer to Melania Trump but hasn’t heard from her.

The Washington Post reached out to Grisham for comment. Grisham responded with a statement characterizing Melania as “a strong and independent woman” who doesn’t need outside advice.

“Mrs. Trump is a strong and independent woman who has been navigating her role as First Lady in her own way. When she needs advice on any issue, she seeks it from her professional team within the White House,” Grisham’s statement says.

The first lady has more explicitly taken aim at the media. During an interview with ABC last month on the occasion of her Africa trip, the first lady said she wore a jacket with the phrase “I really don’t care, do u?” during a trip to visit migrant children who had been separated from their parents at the border as a result of her husband’s immigration policy “for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. And I want to show them that I don’t care.”

But her comments about the jacket’s hidden message for the press contradicted what her spokesperson told reporters about it at the time of her trip to the border in June.

“There was no hidden message,” Grisham said of the jacket at the time. “After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.”

source: vox

The best part of Michelle Obama’s new memoir is how much smack she talks about her husband

Barack and Michelle Obama at their portrait unveiling in February 2018.

Becoming proves that the Obamas are soulmates brought together by a mutual love of shade.

Real talk: By far the most endearing thing in Michelle Obama’s new memoir Becoming is that she seizes absolutely every opportunity she has to brutally drag her husband. Barack Obama may be America’s first black president and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but Michelle Obama is never going to let the world forget that he wore a Miami Vice suit in the ’80s and was late for his first day of work when she was his boss.

It’s endearing — and it’s also effective. Part of what a first lady memoir is traditionally supposed to do is convince readers of the authenticity of the presidential marriage, to make us believe that these two people genuinely like and trust each other, and that we in turn should like and trust them. The Obamas have always been exceptionally gifted at presenting their relationship to the public as a genuine romantic partnership that deserves America’s respect and admiration — remember when they danced to “At Last” at the inauguration ball in 2008? — and Becoming only serves to crystallize that image.

Every time Michelle drags her husband, the affection that breathes through her words serves to make the Obama marriage feel even more authentic and even more admirable. Though it happens several times throughout the book, here are the four best times Michelle drags Barack in Becoming — and one time they bond by dragging everyone else.

1. When she drags him before they even meet

Michelle and Barack Obama met when Barack was hired for a summer position at Michelle’s law firm, and she was assigned to be his company mentor. But even before they officially met, Michelle was not impressed.

For one thing, the kid was late on his first day of work, which Michelle saw, she writes, as “nothing but hubris.”

For another thing, he had a reputation for being both brilliant and cute, and Michelle was skeptical of both. “In my experience,” she writes, “you put a suit on any half-intelligent black man and white people tended to go bonkers.” When she later saw a picture of him, she was unmoved, describing her impression of him only as that of “a guy with a big smile and a whiff of geekiness.”

2. When she can’t deal with his fashion sense

Early on in their friendship, Michelle decided to take Barack to a happy hour with some of her friends so that she could try to set him up with someone. But when he showed up at the bar, his outfit was not up to snuff: “He’d changed out of his work clothes, I noticed, and was wearing a white linen blazer that looked as if it’d come straight out of the Miami Vice costume closet. Ah well.”

3. When he’s just very tortured by income inequality

Not long after they started dating, Michelle woke up one night to find Barack awake and deep in thought:

He looked vaguely troubled, as if he were pondering something deeply personal. Was it our relationship? The loss of his father?

“Hey, what’re you thinking about over there?” I whispered.

He turned to look at me, his smile a little sheepish. “Oh,” he said. “I was just thinking about income inequality.”

Michelle genuinely admires Barack’s high-mindedness, she says — “but honestly,” she adds, “try living with it.”

4. When she’s pretty sure running for office is a terrible idea

Barack began pursuing political office in the mid-’90s, and Michelle was not a fan of the idea. “Quite honestly,” she writes, “I thought he’d get eaten alive.” Even in recounting how he ultimately committed to the decision and Michelle made up her mind to support him in his choice, she can’t resist a dry aside:

This won’t be news to anyone, but my husband did become a politician. He was a good person who wanted to have an impact in the world, and despite my skepticism he decided this was the best way to go about it. Such is the nature of his faith.

5. When they fall in love through their mutual love of shade

What becomes clear through the course of Becoming is that affectionately dragging everyone is the Obama love language — and it’s ultimately what brings the pair together.

During that fateful summer at Michelle’s law firm, she and Barack first bonded by quietly mocking everyone else there. “We gave each other sideways glances when people around us got us stressed to the point of mania,” she writes, “when partners made comments that seemed condescending or out of touch.”

And on their first date, they went to see Les Mis and formed a connection over how much they both hated it:

I don’t know if it was my mood or whether it was just Les Misérables itself, but I spent the next hour feeling helplessly pounded by French misery. Grunts and chains. Poverty and rape. Injustice and oppression. Millions of people around the world had fallen in love with this musical, but I squirmed in my seat, trying to rise above the inexplicable torment I felt every time the melody repeated.

When the lights went up for intermission, I stole a glance at Barack. He was slumped down, with his right elbow on the armrest and index finger resting on his forehead, his expression unreadable.

“What’d you think?” I said.

He gave me a sideways look. “Horrible, right?”

Truly, the couple that shades together stays together.

source: vox

5 biggest takeaways from Michelle Obama’s revealing new memoir

Former First Lady Michelle Obama chats with girls at Whitney Young Magnet School on November 12, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois.

Becoming mostly plays it safe, but it’s the nuances that make it a fascinating read.

Michelle Obama joined the ranks of former first ladies-turned-authors on Tuesday with the launch of her new memoir.

During her husband’s presidency, Michelle Obama was nearly always more popular than he was. She was a master at walking what Vox’s Constance Grady calls the “First Lady Tightrope” — being effective without being threatening; supporting her husband while keeping up a separate identity — and that balancing act carries over to her memoir.

Becoming is a book that takes few risks, as Grady writes: “It is for the most part a safe and anodyne political memoir that does not aspire to any more ambitious territory. But it is enormously effective at distilling Obama’s poise, intelligence, and warmth into a single 421-page package.”

It also lets readers in on a few things — including Obama’s thoughts on President Donald Trump, her use of assisted reproductive technology, her experience with code-switching, and more.

Here are five takeaways from the book.

Obama was ambivalent about her husband running for president and didn’t think he’d win

Before Barack Obama became president of the United States a decade ago, he had an important task to complete — getting his wife’s approval to run for the White House.

The former first lady writes in the memoir that she never expected America to elect a black man for president. Though she loved her husband and “had faith in what he could do,” she writes that part of why she let him run is because she believed he wouldn’t make it too far in the race.

“I said yes, though I was at the same time harboring a painful thought, one I wasn’t ready to share: I supported him in campaigning, but I also felt certain he wouldn’t make it all the way,” she says. “He spoke so often and so passionately of healing our country’s divisions, appealing to a set of higher ideals he believed were innate in most people. But I’d seen enough of the divisions to temper my own hopes.

“Barack was a black man in America, after all. I didn’t really think he could win.”

Eventually, though, other factors also contributed to Michelle Obama agreeing to Barack’s presidential run: She knew her husband was surrounded by a team of “good, smart people.” And she believed he would be a kind president who would better the lives of millions of people — and it was worth putting her own needs, and the needs of their daughters, aside in service of that vision.

Obama reveals she had a miscarriage and had her daughters using assisted reproductive technology

In Becoming, Michelle Obama let readers in on one of the couple’s most intimate stories to date: They had a miscarriage and went on to use in vitro fertilization, or IVF, to conceive their two daughters 20 years ago.

The former first lady opened up about a miscarriage that left her “physically uncomfortable and cratered any optimism we felt.” The event, she wrote, left the Obamas feeling alone, “broken” and “failed,” but allowed them to turn to IVF and have Malia, now 20, and later Sasha, 17.

As Vox’s Julia Belluz notes, about 2 percent of all US births involve some kind of assisted reproductive technology, while miscarriages are the most common complication in pregnancy.

People often don’t talk about these experiences, both because they can be physically and emotionally painful and because of the stigma and lack of awareness about how common they are.

But Michelle Obama’s revelation may be particularly influential: With her book tour launching next week, she’s poised to help normalize miscarriage and become a powerful voice in a new generation of parents who are opening up about their struggles with infertility.

Trump is not a major focus of the memoir, but Obama makes every word on him count

Obama writes she’ll “never forgive” Trump for putting her family at risk. And she doesn’t mince words when talking about the current president:

And to be clear, we were now up against a bully, a man who among other things demeaned minorities and expressed contempt for prisoners of war, challenging the dignity of our country with practically his every utterance.

Obama on Trump’s efforts trying to doubt the president is a US citizen:

The whole thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks. ... Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this, I’d never forgive him.

Finally, on the Trump administration’s impact:

It’s been hard to watch as carefully built, compassionate policies have been rolled back, as we’ve alienated some of our closest allies and left vulnerable members of our society exposed and dehumanized. I sometimes wonder where the bottom might be.

Obama was accused of “talking white” when she was younger, and that prepared her for the challenges that came with Barack’s presidential run

Early in the book, Michelle Obama is not afraid to highlight how she was questioned about her identity as a child, navigating multilayered expectations about gender and race.

One moment came during Obama’s childhood in Chicago, when she was sitting with other young girls. “At one point one of the girls, a second, third, or fourth cousin of mine, gave me a sideways look and said, just a touch hotly, ‘How come you talk like a white girl?’

“The question was pointed, meant as an insult or challenge, but it also came from an earnest place. It held a kernel that was confusing for both of us. We seemed to be related but of two different worlds.”

Though Obama never explicitly mentions this in the memoir, she discusses the complexities of code-switching: a term used to describe the ways people of color and those from other marginalized groups often adjust their language, behavior, and even appearance to navigate certain social situations or audiences, as Vox’s P.R. Lockhart writes.

Although the president tried to quiet narratives about code-switching, the former first lady writes, “America would bring to Barack Obama the same questions my cousin was unconsciously putting to me that day on the stoop: Are you what you appear to be? Do I trust you or not?”

Michelle Obama left her job so her husband could be president. Will Barack now take a step back to let her shine?

The Obama couple is a high-profile version of what journalist Hanna Rosin has termed the “seesaw marriage,” in which partners take turns stepping back from their careers to let the other shoot for the stars and have a shot at self-actualization.

Though Michelle Obama turned away her career when her husband took office in 2009, Barack Obama made personal sacrifices for the family a lot earlier. When she had doubts about leaving a career in corporate law to pursue an opportunity as assistant to the mayor of Chicago, she says in the memoir that Barack “was the lone voice telling me to just go for it, to erase the worries and go toward whatever I thought would make me happy.”

During his political campaigns, though, the seesaw of their marriage tipped toward him, with Michelle Obama writing how “it was almost as if every day he were forced to cast another vote, between family and politics, politics and family.”

As Vox’s Anna North writes, seesaw marriages are becoming increasingly more common, and they’re just the model the couple might use to witness Michelle Obama’s breakthrough career comeback.

According to Becoming, both the Obamas have been “in progress” throughout their marriage. They have supported each other’s goals through risks and difficult times, in the interests of living by President Obama’s maxim: “You can do this.”

When Barack Obama became president, Michelle’s progress took a turn that she didn’t see coming when she met him at their law firm many years ago. Now it may be his role to support her through turns he can’t anticipate. If he does, the Obamas will continue to do what they’ve long been doing — modeling a marriage that, while not always perfect, allows each partner the freedom to grow and change while remaining committed to the family.

“What did Barack and I want?” Obama writes of the time before their marriage. “We wanted a modern partnership that suited us both.”

source: vox

The many scandals of Trump’s new acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, explained

Michelle Obama left her job so her husband could be president. Now it’s her turn to shine.

Former first lady Michelle Obama and former President Barack Obama at the National Portrait Gallery on February 12, 2018.

The Obamas’ “seesaw marriage” could be a model for modern relationships.

Leading up to their engagement, Michelle and Barack Obama had very different ideas of what marriage should be.

“He saw marriage as the loving alignment of two people who could lead parallel lives but without forgoing any independent dreams or ambitions,” Michelle Obama writes in her memoir Becoming, released on Tuesday. “For me, marriage was more like a full-on merger, a reconfiguring of two lives into one, with the well-being of a family taking precedence over any one agenda or goal.”

What they forged in the years that followed, Obama writes in Becoming, was a little bit of both: a marriage in which each supported the other, and each person sometimes made sacrifices for the other’s career.

It’s a high-profile version of what journalist Hanna Rosin has called the “seesaw marriage.” In such a marriage, she writes in her 2012 book The End of Men, “the division of earnings might be 40:60 or 80:20 — and a year or two later may flip, giving each partner a shot at satisfaction.”

Such marriages may be becoming more common. Couples are saying, “We’re no longer going to just assume that the man’s job has priority,” said Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at the Evergreen State College. “I think that’s a sea change in marriages.”

The Obamas’ marriage reveals some of the strengths of seesaw marriages — both partners have been able to have fulfilling careers, and take risks, even while raising two children. At the same time, the setup has potential pitfalls: The partner who steps back to support the other’s career may not get the chance to step forward again. And because of the gendered nature of work and child care in America, the partner who gets short shrift in a heterosexual couple is often the woman.

Michelle Obama took a big step away from her career path when her husband became president, leaving her job at the University of Chicago Medical Center to become the first lady — a big job, certainly, but not one she necessarily would have chosen on her own. Now that the Obamas are no longer in the White House, it may be Michelle’s time to step forward again — and what both she and her husband do next could be a model for couples nationwide.

Michelle Obama sacrificed for her family. But so did Barack Obama.

In Becoming, Michelle Obama writes that even before they were married, Barack inspired her to seek her true calling — and supported her when that meant taking a step in an uncertain direction. In her late 20s, when they were engaged, Obama was feeling dissatisfied with her career as a corporate lawyer. Valerie Jarrett, who would later become a senior adviser to President Obama, was then working for Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, and she offered Michelle a job as assistant to the mayor.

The opportunity excited Michelle, but it would mean a career change and a significant pay cut at a time when the Obamas were thinking about starting a family. Her mother had taught her to play it safe: “Make the money first and worry about your happiness later” was her advice. Barack saw things differently.

“His was the lone voice telling me to just go for it, to erase the worries and go toward whatever I thought would make me happy,” Michelle writes. “Don’t worry, Barack was saying. You can do this. We’ll figure it out.

She took the job. Soon after they were married, Obama made another job change, this time becoming executive director of Public Allies, an organization that trained future community leaders. Again, her husband encouraged her to make the leap, and he worked multiple jobs, in part to compensate for the pay cut she’d taken when she left the law.

Soon, however, it was her turn to support him. When he wanted to run for Illinois state Senate in 1996, she wasn’t sure it was a good idea. But, she writes, “he was the lone person who had waved me forward when I wanted to leave my law career,” and “in our six years together, he hadn’t once doubted my instincts or my capabilities.” She gave him her blessing, and he ran and won.

So began a political career for Barack Obama during which his wife would have to make many sacrifices — in an already much-cited passage in Becoming, she writes about giving herself the injections she needed for IVF while her husband was consumed by his job in the state legislature.

But when his family needed him, he was capable of saying no to politics — when their daughter Malia, then a toddler, got sick on a trip to Hawaii, Barack missed a crucial state Senate vote to stay with the family. Perhaps in part as a result, he lost his primary bid to represent Illinois’s First District in Congress in 2000 — after a brutal campaign in which, Michelle Obama writes, “it was almost as if every day he were forced to cast another vote, between family and politics, politics and family.”

Those kinds of choices are still more familiar to mothers than to fathers, who are expected to go all-in on their careers — but for her husband, Obama writes, family was always crucial, even when work was at its most intense.

Of course, it was Michelle Obama who ended up making some of the biggest sacrifices of their marriage. When her husband’s presidential campaign kicked into high gear after the 2008 Iowa caucus, she took a leave of absence from her job at the University of Chicago Medical Center, “knowing that it would be impossible, really, to stay on and be effective.”

“It had been painful,” she writes, “to step away from my work, but there was no choice: My family needed me, and that mattered more.” Obama became an active first lady, and made the role her own, based on what she’d already learned in a successful and varied career: “After all I’d done to lever myself out of corporate law and into more meaningful community-minded work, I knew I’d be happiest if I could engage actively and work toward achieving measurable results.”

Still, she hadn’t wanted her husband to run for office in the first place, and living in the White House wasn’t one of her goals when she agreed to marry Barack Obama. When he ran for president, the seesaw of their marriage tipped, out of necessity, toward him.

Seesaw marriages are becoming more common

There’s not much data on seesaw marriages yet, Coontz said. But the pay gap in heterosexual marriages — the amount by which husbands, on average, out-earn their wives — is decreasing. And couples today, especially those on the younger side, are less and less likely to assume that the woman should be the one to sacrifice career for family.

“In most families, we don’t face the kind of jobs that require someone to completely quit when the other one is working,” Coontz noted. But for many couples, an egalitarian marriage can involve a certain amount of seesawing over time.

And that can be a good thing, she said. Research has found that when men in heterosexual marriages take parental leave, they boost their wives’ future earnings. Meanwhile, men who take parental leave also become more involved fathers, an effect that holds when they go back to work.

“I think you would see a similar thing in seesaw marriages,” Coontz said. When the seesaw tilts toward the wife’s career, men get “much more experience in hands-on partnership and parenting” — when it tilts toward the husband’s, the wife can still reap some of the benefits of her previous investment in work.

What’s more, having each partner play both caregiver and breadwinner roles “protects in the same way that financial investors tell you to diversify your portfolio” — if one person loses his or her job, the other is more prepared to pick up the slack.

But there is also a risk in seesaw marriages, Coontz said, that once the seesaw tilts toward one person’s career, it may never tilt back. “It’s a particular risk for women,” she said, because of discrimination against mothers in the workplace. But men bear some risk too, as fathers can also face discrimination in the workplace when they take time out to be with their kids.

Meanwhile, the option of a seesaw marriage isn’t available to everyone. Single parents frequently have to assume both breadwinner and primary caregiver roles at once. People whose spouses are ill or disabled may find themselves in one (or both) roles for long periods of time, with little choice in the matter. Same-sex couples may have seesaw marriages, but their decisions may be complicated by the sexuality pay gap and by anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace.

For those who are willing and able to enter into seesaw marriages, better support systems for parents and families, including health care that’s not tied to employment, would help mitigate the risks. “We need the policies that allow people to move in and out” of caregiver and breadwinner roles, Coontz said.

Now is Michelle Obama’s time

Now that the Obamas are no longer in the White House, the seesaw may be swinging back in Michelle Obama’s direction.

“I am now at a new beginning, in a new phase of life,” Obama writes in the epilogue of Becoming. “For the first time in many years, I’m unhooked from any obligation as a political spouse, unencumbered by other people’s expectations.”

It’s not clear what she’ll do with her new freedom — she states categorically that she has “no intention of running for office, ever.”

But, she writes, “at fifty-four, I am still in progress, and I hope that I always will be.”

According to Becoming, both the Obamas have been “in progress” throughout their marriage. They have supported each other’s goals through risks and difficult times, in the interests of living by President Obama’s maxim: “You can do this.”

When Barack Obama became president, Michelle’s progress took a turn that she didn’t see coming when she met him at their law firm many years ago. Now it may be his role to support her through turns he can’t anticipate. If he does, the Obamas will continue to do what they’ve long been doing — modeling a marriage that, while not always perfect, allows each partner the freedom to grow and change while remaining committed to the family.

“What did Barack and I want?” Obama writes of the time before their marriage. “We wanted a modern partnership that suited us both.”

The work of forging that partnership, year by year, in ways that serve and nourish both partners and their family as a whole, will go down as part of their legacy.

source: vox

Republicans just lost a Senate seat in Arizona because Trump is an egomaniac

Trump keeps dragging his party down to his level.

Democrats picked up a Senate seat in Arizona this week because Donald Trump is a raging egomaniac.

That’s not to take anything away from Kyrsten Sinema, the victor, a shrewd and frequently underestimated politician who ran a well-executed campaign against a formidable opponent. Arizona is a fairly conservative state. Trump won there, after all, Gov. Doug Ducey cruised to reelection, and Arizona hasn’t sent a Democratic senator to Washington in more than 30 years. Even in a rough national environment for the GOP, an incumbent should have been able to win here.

And Republicans had an incumbent: Jeff Flake. But Trump drove him out of the party for no real reason. Flake complained from time to time about Trump’s personal style, but ultimately, he voted Trump’s way on every big bill. The issue was Trump’s ego, not policy or politics.

It’s just another reminder that while Trump’s initial triumph in the Republican presidential primary was impressive, almost everything since then has been a mix of good luck and bungling. As long as the institutional Republican Party is dedicated to propping up his administration, he’ll remain in office. But the GOP will continue to pay a price.

Flake was normal. Trump made it weird.

Flake, like all Republicans, was overwhelmingly supportive of Trump’s legislative initiatives and nominees. That’s largely because Trump adopted a fairly conventional conservative agenda, not because Flake was hypnotized into loving Trump. The point, however, is that whatever qualms Flake had about Trump, they were never serious enough for Flake to want to jeopardize anything important on the policy front over it.

Which is just to say that Flake was acting like a normal senator.

Trump was a bad fit for Arizona, a state with lots of Latinos and a large Mormon minority, which he carried with considerably less than 50 percent of the vote. Senators representing states where Barack Obama was unpopular weren’t shy about distancing themselves from him at times even while mostly voting with him. For Flake to do the same was basically unremarkable.

Except Trump didn’t see it that way. Instead, he got himself embroiled in feuds with Flake that turned GOP primary voters against him. That eventually persuaded Flake to stand aside for the good of the party, so a solid candidate like Martha McSally could win the nomination. Flake didn’t want to stand and fight only to lose to the likes of conservative primary challenger Kelli Ward and jeopardize the seat. Instead, McSally ran — and lost the race anyway. And it’s not the only loss that can be put on Trump’s shoulders.

The electoral Trump tax is large and real

Trump pulled a similar move on Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who, unlike Flake, didn’t represent a swing seat in the Senate. Since Tennessee is so conservative, in this case, Rep. Marsha Blackburn was able to win on Election Day. But driving Corker from the Senate attracted a strong Democratic challenger in the form of former Gov. Phil Bredesen, which forced the GOP to invest money in what should have been a gimme race.

That money might have been useful to McSally or to Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who lost last week in a somewhat strange way.

Heller’s problem wasn’t criticism from Trump; it was, rather, that even though Hillary Clinton carried the state, Heller never allowed an inch of daylight between himself and the president. Trump’s revealed preference was for every Republican in Congress to run as a Trump clone, but running as a Trump clone in a state Trump lost led, rather predictably, to Heller losing.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is up for reelection in 2020 and appears to be staring the same fate in the face. It’s not impossible for a Republican to win a Senate election in Colorado, by any means, but Trump is clearly not popular there, so common sense is that Gardner should distance himself from the White House on a topic or three. But Trump doesn’t tolerate dissent, so Gardner has spent the past two years sleepwalking down the same path as Heller.

Trump himself called out a large number of retirements among House incumbents as a factor in the House GOP’s midterm losses. Yet he doesn’t seem to understand (or care) that he was a major driver of those retirements. Lots of House members in seats where Trump was unpopular didn’t want to choose between the Flake path and the Heller path, so they chose to simply retire and lay low.

These are just a range of ways the GOP is paying a “Trump tax” by anchoring themselves to a political leader who declines to behave in a normal or appropriate manner. And Republican leaders should at least consider the reality that Trump’s steady low-40s approval rating represents a ceiling rather than a floor. The country is, after all, enjoying a doze of peace and prosperity the likes of which it hasn’t seen for nearly 20 years. If a Republican president isn’t popular under these circumstances, what’s it going to take?

source: vox

The triumph of the GOP’s racism strategy

Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum attends a service to advocate for a vote recount at the New Mount Olive Baptist Church on November 11, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In the midterm elections, the GOP strategy was racism. In key races, it worked.

Two weeks before this year’s midterm elections, in front of a crowded auditorium at Broward College, Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum called out his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, for taking donations from and speaking at conferences hosted by white supremacists. “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist,” said Gillum.

Gillum was right. DeSantis ran on racism — and so did many other Republicans. And racism appears to have won, at least in Florida and Georgia, where Democrats had hoped the historic campaigns of black candidates Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams would be decisive in winning control of these pivotal states.

To be clear, Republicans did not do well in the 2018 elections. They lost nearly 40 House seats, lost control of at least seven governorships and over 300 state legislative seats, and lost a sizeable proportion of suburban white voters in key states they’ll need to win in 2020. But despite running brilliant high-profile candidates for governor in Florida and Georgia, Democrats appear to have fallen short of decisive wins. Why?

In the 2018 elections, racism was foundational to the Republican political strategy, a strategy that involved using their institutional power to prevent people of color from voting while using racist political rhetoric to drive turnout among rural white voters. And though we won’t know the final outcome of the election until all remaining ballots are counted (and recounted), election returns so far suggest this Republican strategy likely prevented Democrats from winning the governorship in Florida and Georgia.

Voter suppression by voter ID laws, long lines, and broken voting machines disproportionately affects Democratic candidates

The most glaring part of Republicans’ strategy was voter suppression. Republicans used a variety of methods during the elections to make it more difficult for Democrats to be able to vote. These efforts disproportionately targeted communities of color, who are more likely to vote Democratic.

For example, in Georgia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp used his position as secretary of state to purge an estimated 107,000 people from the voter registration rolls just because they had not voted recently — with the majority of counties purging black voters at higher rates than whites. He put another 53,000 voter registration applications “on hold” — 70 percent of which were from black Georgians. And when people showed up to vote in predominantly black counties, they faced impossibly long lines produced by the closure of 214 polling places since 2012, as well as faulty voting machines. Later, we would learn that 700 voting machines were left wrapped and unused in a nearby warehouse in Atlanta.

All of this happened on top of Georgia’s existing strict voter ID law, which imposed an additional barrier to voting that disproportionately disadvantaged black voters. Nationwide, 25 percent of black Americans lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8 percent of whites. A variety of systemic barriers make it harder for people of color to obtain a photo ID. For example, many older black residents lack birth certificates or other required documentation to get an ID. As a consequence, strict voter ID laws like Georgia’s have been shown to significantly and disproportionately reduce turnout among black and brown voters.

Similar issues were reported in Florida, where in addition to purges and polling place closures, there were widespread reports suggesting thousands of voters never received the absentee ballots they requested, and absentee ballots that were submitted by black and Latinx voters were rejected at higher rates due to “signature mismatch.” Taken together, these forms of institutional racism — political institutions imposing discriminatory barriers to voting — could have cost Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum the votes needed to defeat their opponents.

The GOP used racism to turn out its base

Institutional racism only tells part of the story: Throughout the midterm campaigns, Trump and the Republican candidates repeatedly used coded racist appeals to appeal to white voters. In the final weeks of the election, President Trump used his “bully pulpit” — the largest platform in the world — to spread racist and misleading narratives about immigrants.

In October, as a caravan of asylum seekers began walking from Central America towards the southern US border, Trump made claims that the caravan was made up of criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners” and was “invading” America. Then, a week before the election, the president released an anti-immigrant ad depicting an undocumented immigrant who murdered two police officers and implying that other “dangerous illegal criminals” were in the caravan. The ad was considered so racist that even Fox News stopped airing it.

These anti-immigrant narratives dominated the news cycle before the election. Exit polls showed that the strategy worked: Immigration was the single most important issue for Republican voters. In Florida and Georgia, exit polls show both DeSantis and Kemp voters considered immigration to be the most important issue in the election, while health care was the most important issue for those who voted for Gillum and Abrams.

Immigrants weren’t the only targets of this racism. Gillum and Abrams themselves were targeted with racist rhetoric. Trump called Andrew Gillum a “thief” while referring to his Republican opponent as “Harvard educated.” Gillum’s Republican opponent also evoked racist stereotypes by telling voters not to “monkey this up” by voting for Gillum.

In both Georgia and Florida, white supremacist groups organized racist robocalls to voters. These recorded messages called Gillum a “negro” and “monkey” and Stacey Abrams a “negress.” Research shows that priming white voters to think about race can significantly impact their support for black candidates. For example, studies show the darker a candidate’s skin, the less likely white voters are to support them, and that political appeals that make a black candidate’s race more salient to white voters significantly reduce their share of the white vote.

The GOP’s stoking of racist fears might have also driven people to vote against them

As Republican politicians made anti-immigrant and anti-black appeals to their base, rural white voters turned out at high rates to offset Democratic gains in the suburbs. Many of these voters are based in Southern states, where the legacy of racism lives on. White people living in counties where slavery was more prevalent in 1860 are significantly more likely to identify as Republicans, a party that today is working to dismantle civil rights protections and end programs that remedy racial inequities.

Moreover, these voters were more likely to harbor racist attitudes and political beliefs, such as reporting feeling warmer towards whites than blacks and opposing affirmative action. And nearly 2 million people in Florida and Georgia were prohibited from voting in the election because of felony disenfranchisement laws enacted during the Jim Crow era to suppress the black vote (fortunately, Florida voters repealed one of these laws this election by passing Amendment 4).

It’s possible that all of these factors didn’t matter enough to change the results by the one percent (or even half of one percent) needed to change the outcome. It’s possible that these blatantly racist appeals had the opposite effect for some voters: motivating people of color and some white voters to show up and vote Democrat.

But it’s hard to believe all of these tactics used in combination — each already proven to have significant and measurable impacts on their own in past elections — would not have some effect on these key elections. Racism, in the end, appears to have proven decisive.

Samuel Sinyangwe is an activist and data scientist focused on addressing racism and police violence in the United States through local, state, and federal advocacy. He is a co-founder of Campaign Zero, a national platform of data-driven policy solutions and advocacy tools to end police violence.


First Person is Vox’s home for compelling, provocative narrative essays. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines, and pitch us at firstperson@vox.com.

source: vox

Rick Scott won’t commit to certifying recount results if he loses, top adviser says

Michelle Obama says she’ll “never forgive” Trump for putting her family at risk

The Wisconsin high schoolers’ Hitler salute and the problem of “ironic” Nazism

Michelle Obama’s story of “talking white” shines a light on the complexities of code-switching

In her new memoir, <em>Becoming,</em> Michelle Obama discusses her life and time in the White House.

In Becoming, Obama discusses how she was questioned about her identity as a child — and how her husband faced similar questions in his presidential campaign.

Decades before becoming the first black woman to serve as first lady, Michelle Obama was already navigating a complex web of expectations about race and gender. In her new memoir Becoming, she opens up about these expectations and how they affected her.

An early moment came during Obama’s childhood in Chicago, when she was sitting with other young girls. “At one point one of the girls, a second, third, or fourth cousin of mine, gave me a sideways look and said, just a touch hotly, ‘How come you talk like a white girl?,’” she writes.

“The question was pointed, meant as an insult or challenge, but it also came from an earnest place,” Obama writes. “It held a kernel that was confusing for both of us. We seemed to be related but of two different worlds.”

Obama never refers to it in this way, but what she is discussing here is “code-switching,” a term informally used to describe the ways people of color and those from other marginalized groups often adjust their language, behavior, and even appearance in order to navigate certain social situations or audiences. For people of color, code-switching often means speaking and acting one way among friends and family and a different way around authority figures or colleagues.

While Obama discusses code-switching in the context of her interactions with girls in her neighborhood, the concept is more often raised in instances where a person of color must adapt their behavior to fit the expectations of white audiences, be it a black man adjusting his tone to be more deferential when interacting with police or a woman changing her natural hair before starting a job in an office. For Barack Obama, code-switching played a role in his election, as he used it to gain support among white and black audiences.

Michelle Obama’s childhood story shows how she was first made aware of the expectations put upon people of color to behave certain ways in certain situations. And as her husband ran for president decades later, this knowledge would carry over into how she viewed his campaign.

Obama says her first experiences with code-switching prepared her for her husband’s presidential run

As a child, Obama says, the issue was that she did not make this switch, leading her cousin to accuse her of “talking white.” While Obama doesn’t go so far as to criticize her cousin for thinking this, Barack Obama has spoken of this as well, arguing during his 2004 Senate campaign, Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”

That argument, as Jenée Desmond-Harris wrote for Vox in 2017, “validates a particular social conservative worldview by placing the blame for disparate academic outcomes squarely on the backward ideas of black children and black cultural pathology.” As president, Obama would later tone down his own statements on the topic, saying in 2014 that narratives about the consequences of acting white were “sometimes overstated.”

Michelle Obama however, offers a different take on the topic, saying that the questioning of her identity as a child prepared her for what she would face when her husband began his 2008 presidential campaign:

I’d see this confusion play out on the national stage among whites and blacks alike, the need to situate someone his or her ethnicity and the frustration that comes when it can’t easily be done. America would bring to Barack Obama the same questions my cousin was unconsciously putting to me that day on the stoop: Are you what you appear to be? Do I trust you or not?

Obama says that day in Chicago offered an important lesson. “I look back on the discomfort of that moment now and recognize the more universal challenge of squaring who you are with where you come from and where you want to go,” she writes.

And as she moved from that stoop in Chicago to Princeton and Harvard, then a career at the University of Chicago and a later stint as the first black first lady in American history, Obama found a path where she did not rely on code-switching but simply continued being herself. “I like me. I like my story and all the bumps and bruises,” she recently told Oprah Winfrey in an interview for Elle magazine. “That’s what makes me uniquely me.”

source: vox

FG Considers Fixed Price For Agric Produce – Audu Ogbeh

The Federal Government says it is considering fixing a guaranteed minimum price for agricultural produce to reduce the fluctuating and high cost of commodities.

Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, disclosed this in Abuja on Tuesday at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between tractor companies and Agriculture Mechanisation Company.

Ogbeh frowned at the act and idea of people buying cheap grains during harvest, store and sell them at exorbitant prices.

The minister said that the act was the reason for the high cost of food, especially grains.

‘‘For the guaranteed minimum price, we are certainly going to work on it.

‘‘The idea of very rich men and women buying up grains cheaply when the harvest is fresh and store in their warehouses and sell at a high price later is alarming.

‘‘It is business but we will like to introduce some morality into it so the farmer doesn’t lose on his or her investment and can continue doing business.

‘‘That is something we are considering and something we will put in place very shortly.

‘‘We will advise farmers not to get very greedy especially with grains like rice.

‘‘If they raise the price of paddy too high and the millers buy at that price, it then means that the rice will hit the market so high that it is more expensive than foreign rice,’’ he said.

Ogbeh commended the Nigerian Agricultural Mechanisation and Equipment Leasing Company (NAMEL) for initiating the MoA with mechanisation service providers.

According to him, the government cannot manage tractors but it can be efficiently managed by the private sector.

The Chief Executive of NAMEL, Dr. Ahmed Adekunle, said the company’s goal includes the deployment of 10,000 units of tractors and over 60,000 other machineries across 774 local government areas in the country.

Adekunle said the mechanisation project would bridge the gaps between stakeholders in ensuring delivery of sustainable mechanisation services to commercial, medium and smallholder farmers in the country.

Mr. Bitrus Yakubu, the National President of the Tractors Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria (TOOAN), said that the introduction of the modern technologies would help to increase yields.

Yakubu listed some of the challenges facing large-scale farmers and tractor operators to include the high cost of equipment and duty rate on equipment, high-interest rates and unregulated farm produce prices, among others.

Alhaji Danladi Garba, the National President of the Tractors Owners and Hiring Facilities Association of Nigeria (TOHFAN), said the agreement was the cheapest the association had involved in.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the agreement is a private sector-driven agreement to make mechanisation services available to farmers through the tractor service companies (TOOAN and TOHFAN).

(NTA)

Michelle Obama’s Becoming is a master class in walking the First Lady Tightrope

FBI: reported hate crimes increased by 17 percent in 2017

But there’s a catch: The FBI report likely undercounts by hundreds of thousands.

The number of hate crimes reported in the US increased by 17 percent in 2017, with a particular surge in reports of anti-Jewish incidents, according to a new report from the FBI.

Most major categories of hate crimes — whether motivated by race or ancestry, religion, or sexual orientation — were reported at higher rates in 2017 than in 2016. Reported anti-Jewish crimes rose by more than 37 percent, perhaps pointing to an increase in anti-Semitism, which has gotten more and more attention after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

Reported anti–Hispanic and Latino crimes also rose by more than 24 percent, and anti–American Indian or Alaska Native crimes rose by nearly 63 percent — although the number of incidents in these categories was still overall far lower than, for example, anti-black and anti-Jewish incidents.

At the same time, reported anti-Muslim crimes decreased by about 10 percent, although after sharp increases in recent years. Reported incidents motivated by gender identity also saw a very slight decrease of about 4 percent.

There are a few caveats here. The report only measures crimes reported to the FBI, so, as the FBI cautioned, the increase might not mean the number of hate crimes rose in 2017. It could be a result (at least partially) of more of those hate crimes being reported to the FBI — particularly because about 1,000 more law enforcement agencies started contributing data in 2017.

More broadly, although the FBI’s report is the most comprehensive look at the nation’s hate crimes released every year, it is known to be woefully inadequate — because other federal surveys suggest it may undercount the number of hate crimes by the hundreds of thousands.

Over the past two decades, the FBI reported between 6,000 and 10,000 hate crimes each year in the US. But when the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) surveyed large segments of the population between 2007 and 2011 to try to gauge the real number of hate crimes, it concluded that there are nearly 260,000 such crimes annually.

So the FBI, although it’s supposed to be our most reliable and current source of nationwide crime data, is potentially undercounting hate crimes by a magnitude of more than 40. Yet short of the BJS doing another in-depth survey and analysis on this issue, the FBI provides the best national data we have for more recent years.

The spike in reported hate crimes comes amid Trump’s first year in office

The report found that nearly 58 percent of incidents were motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry. Almost 22 percent were motivated by religion, and nearly 16 percent were motivated by sexual orientation. The rest were motivated by disability, gender, gender identity, and multiple kinds of bias.

About 57 percent of reported hate crimes were crimes against persons — mostly assault and intimidation, but also some murders and rapes. About 43 percent were crimes against property, particularly vandalism but also larceny-theft, robbery, and burglary. There’s some overlap between these categories, meaning some hate crimes can involve, say, both assault and robbery.

Even if the increase is in part a result of better reporting, some of the numbers — such as the sharp increase in anti-Jewish crimes as well as anti–Hispanic and Latino crimes — are alarming.

The broader context is crucial here: The report covers the first year of President Donald Trump’s time in the White House, and he’s been repeatedly criticized, from his campaign to his presidential statements and tweets, of stoking racist sentiment, particularly against immigrants and refugees.

In August 2017, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in a protest that ended in violence when a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters and killed a woman. After the demonstrations and violence, Trump said that there were “fine people on both sides” — a statement that was taken by both critics and supporters of the Charlottesville protests as pandering to white supremacists.

But even though the hate crime experts I’ve talked to said there’s likely been an uptick due to Trump’s rhetoric, it’s impossible to say for sure without better hard data — especially given the likelihood that the FBI’s report is still dramatically undercounting hate crimes.

For more on hate crimes, read Vox’s explainer.

source: vox

Federal Government Applies to Try Dasuki in Absentia

The Federal Government on Tuesday applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja to continue the trial of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki in absentia.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Dasuki is standing trial on alleged illegal possession of firearms.

Mr. Oladipupo Okpeseyi (SAN), counsel to the government said the motion became necessary following the defendant’s refusal to appear in court for trial.

Okpeseyi brought the motion in line with Section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

He told the court that Dasuki’s refused to be brought to court was an affront on the court, adding that the court had the express right to go on with the trial without Dasuki’s presence in court.

Okpeseyi said he was not aware of the ex-NSA’s letter or the fact that he would refuse to attend his trial as scheduled, until the morning of the adjourned date.

“My lord, it was this morning that he said no! I have written to the court that I am not coming. No am not coming’’, Okpeseyi quoted Dasuki as saying.

Okpeseyi had accused Dasuki of deliberately challenging the authority of the court since the case was specifically adjourned for the continuation of trial.

He argued that Dasuki’s continued detention had no nexus with the extant case, saying he was duly granted bail by the court before other allegations suppressed the initial bail.

Mr. Victor Okwudiri, counsel to Dasuki had objected to the application to try his client in his absence.

Dasuki had formally written a letter dated Nov. 12 addressed to the registrar of the court expressing worry over his continued detention.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari had in his maiden media chart preempted the decision of the court on his trial.

He alleged that the president had said that the allegations brought against him were weighty and such that he could jump bail if granted.

Dasuki said the court and the prosecutorial agencies had so far lived up to the pronouncement of the president by denying him to enjoy his multiple bails granted him by courts.

Dasuki said he had unjustly suffered unabated persecution in the hands of the current administration.

“The prevailing circumstances have prompted me to write this letter to the court.

“It seems to me that the current administration has so much interfered with the judicial system, such that it has become practically impossible for the court to maintain its independence.

“The resolve to continue detaining me against the several orders of courts and in brazen violation of the Constitution is wrongful and arbitrary.

“It has inflicted physical, emotional and psychological torture on my family and me.

“ The decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria is not only high-handed, but it is also arbitrary and in violation of both domestic and international laws on human rights.

“At this juncture, it will seem that the Nigerian Government is not inclined to yield or obey the orders of any court of law, whether domestic or international.

“Ironically, the Federal Government still wants to ride on judicial wings to prosecute me, when it does not comply with the orders that proceed from the courts, especially in relations to me.

“At this point, I strongly believe that there must be an end to this hypocrisy and lopsided/partisan rule of law.

“ Since the Federal Government has resolved not to comply with judicial orders directing my release, it is better for the court to also absolve me of the need to submit myself for further prosecution.

“Justice should be evenly dispensed as opposed to the same being in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Kindly bring this information to the attention of his lordship’’, Dasuki said.

Giving ruling, Justice Mohammed held that the Federal Government should approach the court with an affidavit as against seeking such prayer orally.

“As at this morning, I do not have any affidavit from the prosecution for the trial of the defendant to continue in his absence, otherwise, I would have made the order”, the judge said.

On Dasuki’s letter, the judge held that the court would not honour the letter since it was written and sent to the court by the defendant and not through his counsel.

Mohammed also held that it was wrong for any party in a criminal matter, to directly exchange correspondences with the trial court.

The judge further said he had directed the court clerk to return the letter back to whoever brought it.

Mohammed thereafter adjourned the trial until Nov.19 for continuation.

The prosecution averred that some range of firearms without requisite licenses were on July 17, 2015, found in Dasuki’s Asokoro, Abuja’s home.

The federal government alleged that Dasuki by such act had committed an offence punishable under Section 27 (1)(a) of the Firearms Act Cap F28 LFN 2004.

Dasuki was also accused of retaining unjustified sums of foreign currencies in the same house contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 among others.

NAN also recalls that the defendant is also standing trial on the allegation of misappropriation of 2.8 billion US dollars meant for the procurement of arms for the military in 2015.

(NTA)

Trump may fire his immigration hardliner DHS secretary — for not being hardline enough

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen looks on during the Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America on October 11, 2018, in Washington, DC.&nbsp;

Trump’s demands are simply detached from reality.

President Donald Trump is reportedly about to fire Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — giving the Department of Homeland Security its fourth boss in less than two years — because she can’t stop people from trying to come to the United States just by shouting at them.

That’s an exaggeration, but only barely.

According to Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey, and Philip Rucker of the Washington Post, Trump has decided to ask Nielsen (who was confirmed in December 2017 to replace John Kelly) for her resignation as part of his post-midterms Cabinet shakeup. Trump has reportedly been dissatisfied with her performance for a while — it’s generally accepted that the influence of Kelly, her mentor, is the biggest reason she’s kept the job as long as she has.

But Trump’s frustration with Nielsen seems to be rooted in his own failure to understand immigration policy. Immigration has been the signature issue of Trump’s presidency, but after nearly two years in office, the president doesn’t appear to understand that the US government can’t control whether people try to migrate to America — nor can it simply prevent anyone (or even prevent people without papers) from setting foot on US soil.

Nielsen spent her tenure implementing a border crackdown, and is about to get fired for not being tough enough

The standard line from White House reporting is that Trump is mad that Nielsen isn’t tough enough on immigration enforcement. But this assessment doesn’t appear to be a reflection of her policy record at DHS.

Nielsen has spent most of her tenure executing an ongoing crackdown at the US-Mexico border. Under her watch, thousands of National Guard units and active-duty military have been deployed to the border (many for no obvious purpose).

Nielsen’s DHS has made it near-impossible for people to seek asylum. Under a proclamation signed by Trump on Friday, people who enter the US between official border crossings (called points of entry) are categorically ineligible for asylum; asylum-seekers who do try to come to ports of entry, meanwhile, are forced to wait for weeks (or simply turned away) under a department policy of “metering.”

Most famously, Nielsen signed off on the “zero-tolerance” prosecution policy that resulted, in late spring and early summer, in the separation of thousands of families at the US-Mexico border without any apparent plans to reunite them. And her department continues to work on regulations that will allow them to detain families together indefinitely.

To Trump’s critics, Nielsen is so closely associated with family separation that it would be easy to assume that she’s being fired to distance Trump from what was arguably his biggest fiasco on his signature policy issue. But that isn’t what’s happening.

Trump took credit for “securing” the border at the beginning of his presidency, and now blames Nielsen for regressing to the mean

By any objective measure, Nielsen’s border policies have been harsher than those of her predecessor (and protector) John Kelly. But Trump loved Kelly’s performance as Homeland Security secretary — so much that he promoted Kelly to White House chief of staff after less than six months.

Kelly and Nielsen are still closely allied within the administration; Kelly certainly doesn’t seem to see Nielsen as impermissibly dovish on immigration. But Kelly’s defense of Nielsen hasn’t gotten Trump to trust her; if anything, it’s encouraged Trump to stop trusting Kelly.

This clearly has something to do with the byzantine personality politics of the Trump administration. But it also has something to do with immigration. Specifically, this:

During the first few months of 2017, apprehensions at the US-Mexico border plummeted from what were already historically low levels of border crossings. Trump took personal credit — and held it up as proof that all it took was a tough-talking president to secure the border once and for all.

He was half right — and he’s been bedeviled by the other half, the “once and for all” part, ever since. Because Trump decided to measure the success of his immigration policy in whether or not people were trying to enter the US at all — not in how many were being deported, or allowed to stay, or anything else — he set himself up for failure.

It really does appear that the early-2017 lull in apprehensions was a reaction to Trump taking office. But people both within and outside the government understood at the time that the absurdly quiet border of Trump’s first months wouldn’t last, because for a year — through Kelly’s tenure and the beginning of Nielsen’s — tough talk was all the Trump administration had to offer.

People (and the smuggling networks that often facilitate their migration) make decisions about whether to migrate based on what they know about the potential outcome. When all they knew about that outcome was that Trump was talking tough, it made sense to wait and see what that tough talk turned into. When it became clear that the tough talk didn’t reflect the underlying reality — people who entered the US were still allowed to stay and seek asylum — the tough talk lost its efficacy.

This wasn’t a failure of political will on John Kelly’s part. It was a belated reckoning with reality: The low-hanging fruit of deterrent immigration policies had been picked a long time ago.

US immigration law is a balance between the desire to minimize unauthorized entry into the United States and the desire to protect vulnerable people who may be fleeing harm and persecution. Both US and international law prohibit the US from refusing entry to people who are in danger of prosecution in their home countries; both US statute and court settlements offer extra due-process protections to asylum-seekers, children, and families.

Trump’s anger at Kirstjen Nielsen was really an anger with this delicate balance. For the past six months, the US has tried to do as much as it can to push policy toward enforcement over protection — with the political and legal resistance that might be expected when tough problems are met with blunt solutions.

It wasn’t enough — at least so far. The administration hasn’t yet been able to find a way to guarantee that someone who comes to the US without papers has no chance of staying. Short of that, no policy crackdown will persuade someone desperately fleeing her home country that it’s not worth it to try to come to America. And mass deterrence — fewer people getting caught by Border Patrol because fewer people want to set foot in the US without papers — is the only outcome Trump has set himself up to accept.

Whoever follows Nielsen is going to be in the same trap Nielsen was

It’s hard to divine what, specifically, Trump thinks Nielsen should have done differently — which is to say, what he’d be looking for in her successor.

As the Post article put it, the president is “believed to be looking for a replacement who will implement his policy ideas with more alacrity.” That might just mean that Nielsen has been insufficiently gung-ho in Trump’s presence. It might mean that her department took too long to turn ideas tossed out in White House meetings into policy. (While DHS has been roundly criticized, including by its own inspector general, for its implementation of “zero-tolerance” and family separation, it did work on the policy for several weeks and debate its legality before Nielsen signed off on it.)

Those sound like reasons for Trump to replace Nielsen with an immigration hawk he already likes — which is to say, with Kris Kobach.

Kobach, who just managed to lose his election for governor of Kansas to a Democrat, was under consideration for an administration job before Trump’s inauguration. (When he failed to close his folder of notes during a pre-Trump-interview photo op, the world learned he was making proposals to Trump on voter fraud.) He was co-head of Trump’s ill-fated “voter integrity” task force.

He is the very model of a hardline immigration hawk, but even Trump appears to be concerned that he can’t easily be confirmed by the Senate. (This isn’t a thing with which Trump is typically concerned, and it’s worth wondering what role South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally who is the incoming head of the Senate Judiciary Committee but who’s also fairly dovish on immigration, is playing in Trump’s assessment of Kobach.)

But who else could take the job? While officials inside the department are practically begging Trump to nominate someone who already has experience at DHS — preferably someone who’s already been confirmed by the Senate — Trump doesn’t appear as enthusiastic about any of the current crop of DHS appointees as he was about John Kelly and former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) head Tom Homan, who left the administration earlier this year.

And it’s really not clear that there is anyone who could implement Trump’s “ideas” to his satisfaction — because it’s not clear what “ideas” those are.

Trump appears to have set himself against Nielsen back in May, when he famously yelled at her for 15 minutes during a Cabinet meeting. Her offense? She (and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions) had the nerve to tell him that it would be illegal for the president to simply close the US-Mexico border to literally all legal and unauthorized crossings. As I wrote at the time:

Nielsen, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, apparently tried to explain to the president that the federal government is constrained in what it can do by the law, but Trump reportedly wasn’t having it. “We need to shut it down,” he yelled at Nielsen at one point, per the Post report. “We’re closed.”

Is that the “idea” the president is looking for a Homeland Security secretary to implement with more “alacrity”? It was reportedly floated again during the late-October conversations on border escalation that resulted in last week’s asylum overhaul.

It would still be an absolute disaster for trade, and for the economies of pretty much every community along the border. It would still be flatly illegal under international and US law, which make it clear that people have the right to seek protection from persecution in the US whether or not they have papers.

And it would still not work at all, because US border policy is set up to catch as many people as possible once they have entered the US, not to prevent them from setting foot on US soil at all.

It’s really not clear whether any DHS secretary — even Kris Kobach — would be willing to go along with something so cockamamie. But Trump still doesn’t appear to understand how cockamamie it is. He doesn’t appear to get that the difference between border apprehensions under Kelly and under Nielsen isn’t a matter of political will, but the interplay of complex factors — many of which aren’t even in the federal government’s control at all, and others of which aren’t something the executive branch can fix on its own.

Until the president comes down to earth on immigration, he’s not going to find a DHS secretary that satisfies his fantasy.

source: vox